Lotus root mini-cakes with sweet chili sauce
I've lived in Switzerland on and off now for more than a decade. During that time, I've slowly seen more Asian grocery stores open, and more Asian ingredients become available. As far as I'm concerned, that's a great thing.
When I saw some fresh lotus roots at my favorite Chinese grocery store in Zürich, I did a little dance of joy. I could only find it frozen or canned before. Lotus root, known as renkon (蓮根）in Japan, is an interesting vegetable, that changes its nature by how much you cook it. When it's raw it's rather bitter; when cooked briefly it has a very unique, crunchy texture; when stewed for some time, it turns starchy. It's packed with fiber and various nutrients, and even used for medicinal purposes in the past. (Wikipedia entry).
This is what a raw lotus root looks like:
The outer brown skin is peeled off (a vegetable peeler works great for this task).
You may be more used to seeing lotus root served in slices:
Sliced lotus root can be boiled or blanched, steamed, stewed, deep-fried and so on. The lacy pattern adds instant flair to your dish.
Here though I grated the raw lotus root to make little pancakes out of them. When lotus root is treated like this, the texture turns quite starchy and dumpling-like, a little like rice cakes (mochi). Generous amounts of chopped fresh coriander leaves and green onion are added, for a pan-Asian flavor. They are gluten-free, vegan, and generally quite healthy, but they taste great too.
Because they are rather dense and starchy, it's best to make them quite small, about the size of a poker chip.
Recipe: Lotus root mini-cakes
- 1 lotus root about 9 inches / 25cm or so in length, to yield about 1 cup of grated root
- 4 to 5 Tbs. potato starch or cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion
- Sesame oil for cooking
- Sweet chili sauce or chili jam
Peel the lotus root and grate on a fine grater. Drain lightly in a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of excess moisture, but do not squeeze. Add salt.
Add enough potato or corn starch (use a gluten-free version if you are sensitive) to just hold the dough together sufficiently to form patties with. Add the chopped coriander and green onion and mix well.
Heat up a non-stick frying pan or griddle. Drizzle with a little sesame seed oil. Make little cakes or patties from the dough, and put in the hot pan. You should get about 8 to 10 little patties.
Leave to cook over medium-high heat, until the cakes move about a bit if you shake the pan. Turn each cake over carefully with a spatula. Drizzle in a little more sesame oil if necessary.
Continue cooking, flipping over more times if necessary, until the dough changes from an opaque white to transparent pale green, and the surface is browned and crispy.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with sweet chili sauce or chili jam for dipping. Great party food, or as a tasty carb component of a bento.
How to cook lotus root, a basic primer.